The Circus in the Attic: and Other Stories by Robert Penn Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An alternate title for this book could be "The Funeral in the Basement" or something along those lines, because at the heart of every one of these stories is death and saying goodbye. In my mind, that makes for good reading, especially when the stories are told by an author as unsympathetic to his characters as Robert Penn Warren is. By far, my favorite new-to-me story of this book was "The Patented Gate and The Mean Hamburger", probably the closest Warren ever got to writing humor, but of course, it's dark humor. "A Christian Education" I've read before in several short story anthologies, and it is a story that holds up to being read over and over again. Many of these stories focus on tobacco farmers, set in a time when tobacco growing was an honorable and honest way to make a living. It's become politically incorrect to remember that time, making this collection of stories historically important as well as great reading. My only negative goes along with the almost always true bit of writer's advice: never write in dialect. As great as a writer as Warren is, his attempt to use dialog to create setting is jarring, and when that happens in the first story of a collection, it jumps out in every other story that follows.
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